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Costa Mesa Pot-Shop Initiative Qualifies For Special Election Ballot

The General

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Costa Mesa residents will likely have the chance to vote on whether legal, regulated medical marijuana dispensaries come to town, after the city clerk certified an initiative Tuesday that would allow eight pot shops to open and operate within the community. The Orange County Registrar of Voters verified 9,565 signatures on the Costa Mesa initiative known as the Act to Restrict and Regulate the Operation of Medical Marijuana Businesses, or ARRO. The initiative needed only 7,385 signatures — 15 percent of registered voters — for certification.

Now, the Costa Mesa City Council must decide whether to adopt the initiative as law or call for a special election to allow voters to decide. The council will consider the question at its Nov. 18 meeting, but will also have the option of asking staff to report back within 30 days with information on the fiscal, safety and land-use impacts of the initiative.

The ARRO initiative began circulating in May and was submitted Sept. 17. The initiative would allow the city to collect a 6 percent sales tax on the dispensaries, require on-site security guards, mandate background checks on employees, and forbid the shops from operating within 1,000 feet of one another or within 600 feet of a school. The county also is currently verifying signatures on a second Costa Mesa initiative calling for medical cannabis shops. That one, submitted Oct. 9, would limit the city to four dispensaries. The second initiative was handed in with 10,894 signatures, and the city clerk has until Nov. 24 to certify or reject it.

The result could be two separate special elections or a single election with two ballot questions. The city clerk estimated a special election would cost in excess of $200,000. And now, with the possibility of voters deciding the future of medical marijuana in Costa Mesa, the City Council also is considering adding a third medical-pot initiative to a special election ballot. At Tuesday's council meeting, Councilman Gary Monahan suggested the council could vote in coming months to put its own measure on the ballot because "one way or another, we are going to be voting on medical marijuana early next year."

In August, Monahan asked the council to consider placing a medical cannabis initiative on the Nov. 4 general election ballot, but the measure didn't even make it to a vote. Now, Monahan is considering bringing the ordinance before the council a second time. Mayor Jim Righeimer said he would wait to hear from staff on the impacts of the ARRO initiative before deciding. He also complained that California did not have the marijuana equivalent of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, leaving it to cities to regulate.

In 2012, a group of Costa Mesa medical marijuana activists fell 108 signatures short of getting a pot-shop question on the ballot. That same year, federal authorities raided and shut down several Costa Mesa marijuana dispensaries. If the council opts for a special election, the city has between 88 and 103 days to hold the contest. Monahan said the election would likely be held in February or March.


News Moderator - The General @ 420 MAGAZINE ®
Source: Ocregister.com
Author: Staff
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Website: Costa Mesa pot-shop initiative qualifies for special election ballot - The Orange County Register
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